“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.” – John Steinbeck
Steinbeck was speaking metaphorically. But some of us were literally born to be lost. Our DNA slept through the lecture on building an internal compass. And for us, left is an ambiguous term.
As a teenager visiting San Francisco, I wandered around in circles in Golden Gate Park, collecting enough invitations to the church of Sun Myung Moon to qualify for a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. In Nevada I ended up on roads no longer maintained by the highway department, roads where the tumbleweeds were winning and the rewards were views of nuclear waste sites. In Philadelphia, I found myself lost in inner city neighborhoods as broken as the brick streets I traveled over, forgotten places where row houses were returning to dust even as children still peered from their doorways. And in Newfoundland, my confusion landed me in a small dinghy where I sped toward blue-tinged icebergs with a drunken fisherman who spoke an entirely different version of English even when sober.
It took decades for my brain to develop its own directional network. And if that network could be visualized on a topographical map, it would still be no more than a series of thin dotted lines that vanish on the peaks of mountains. I can still unintentionally take the other left. But with the wide availability of mobile GPS units, I’m no longer completely dependent upon my somnolent DNA. I type in an address, and my GPS will be there for me, luring me to yet another straight silver highway. Gone are the uncertainties, the confusion, the delays. But also gone are the unplanned adventures, the unintended explorations, the journeys that become more important than the destination.
And I reflect on what I would have missed if I had been gifted with an internal compass – all those lonely roads, forgotten roads and roads that did disappear in the mist of ridge tops. These are the places that exposed my fears, challenged my preconceptions and sometimes stunned me with their beauty. They’ve seared their way into my memory and keep drawing me back.
So unless I have a commitment that requires punctuality, I silence my GPS or smile as it frantically repeats “rerouting, rerouting, rerouting” in its strict motherly voice. Because now that I can avoid being lost, I too have discovered that I don’t want to be found.